Mississippi State's McDonald wins North and South title

Jul. 21, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Ally McDonald didn’t hear the tournament official.

After pulling her drive left of her target on the 438-yard 16th hole on Pinehurst No. 2, McDonald marched off the tee, head down, eyes fierce and narrowed. An official asked if she wanted some water. After all, the heat index had soared above 100 degrees.

McDonald never broke stride and her countenance never shifted.

“I started pulling shots left,” McDonald said later of struggling a bit with her swing in the final stages of the championship match of the 111th North & South Women’s Amateur.

“I was tired and got lazy, and I’m not supposed to do that," she said.

One thing should be mentioned. McDonald’s ball was comfortably in the fairway.

The Mississippi State All-American was at times brilliant on Saturday as she topped junior star Yueer “Cindy” Feng to win the North and South Women’s Amateur 3 and 2, emerging as the final one standing over an elite field of amateur golf’s best.

“This means a lot,” McDonald said. “It means so much to win such a prestigious tournament and to add my name to the list of the greats who have won here.”

An All-American as a sophomore this past school year, McDonald was third at the SEC Championship, won the NCAA Central Regional and finished 10th in the NCAA Championship. She contended for three rounds for a national title, only to shoot 81 on the last day to finish behind NCAA Champion Annie Park.

But Park had no answer for McDonald in Pinehurst, as the Fulton, Miss., native rallied to beat Park in the quarterfinals and set up Saturday’s sterling performance.

McDonald, who beat Columbia’s Michelle Piyapattra 2 and1 in the semifinals Saturday morning to earn a trip to the championship match, never trailed against Feng, who fought a balky putter throughout the round. McDonald led 2 up after two holes as Feng three-putted both, and while Feng was able to close to 1 down twice, she never threatened McDonald the rest of the way.

“I could definitely play, not necessarily more cautious, but I could play more strategic with the lead,” McDonald said. “Pars are great out here, and I was really focused on trying to hit the middle of the green just to stay away from trouble.”

McDonald hit the shot of the day on the 178-yard par-3 No. 6, firing within 3 feet for an easy birdie to go 2 up. Feng then found trouble off the tee at the dogleg No. 7 and McDonald was able to go 3 up after a careful 2-putt par.

Feng, who made the cut at the 2013 U.S. Open and qualified for her first Open at age 13, drained two lengthy par putts on 14 and 15 to keep the match going, keeping McDonald within reach, 2 up, as they approached 16.

That’s where McDonald pulled her tee shot – to the left side of the fairway. McDonald missed one fairway the entire match.

Feng sailed her approach to the back apart of the green, leaving herself 60 feet for birdie. McDonald nestled a shot 25 feet past the pin, and after her birdie putt slid by, Feng three-putted for a fifth time, this time missing from 10 feet to give McDonald the victory.

“This is definitely one of the top tournaments I’ve ever won,” McDonald said. “It’s amazing to have won at Pinehurst.”

McDonald said she plans to defend her championship in 2014, but has larger aspirations – qualifying for the U.S. Open on No. 2 in 2014.

“To be able to come to a site I’m familiar with and with added confidence to say I’ve won on the golf course, and then to be able to play against the best of the best in the world here would be thrilling,” she said.

For now, though, McDonald is content to join the likes of the game’s greats who have also won at Pinehurst.